This fan-favorite red enchilada sauce recipe is one of our most popular sauces. You’ll never buy canned enchilada sauce again!
Use this enchilada sauce recipe for Cheese Enchiladas, Empanadas, or a casserole. Once you go homemade, you’ll never buy store-bought again—we never buy Green Enchilada Sauce either!
Homemade Is Better!
Have you ever made or had a homemade enchilada sauce? It seems like it might be a hard thing to do, but the sauce we are sharing today is simple and a family favorite.
We use this enchilada sauce recipe for our Red Cheese Enchiladas and Beef Empanadas, and it’s phenomenal.
Yes, you can buy sauce in the can, but it doesn’t compare to this homemade version. It takes just a few ingredients (all the items are pantry staples in my house), and is made in under 20 minutes.
With the chili powder in this recipe, there is some spice, but you can change the amount of powder you use based on what your family likes.
Also, note that how much chili powder and which brand you use will determine the color of the sauce. Generic chili powders tend to be darker which will create a darker sauce.
How to Make Enchilada Sauce
This enchilada sauce is so simple and delicious! It uses simple pantry ingredients, but as a note, we prefer Gebhardt’s chili powder!
ROUX. Add oil to a pot and heat on medium heat. Pour in flour and create a roux by whisking them together for 1-2 minutes.
SEASONINGS. Add chili powder, garlic powder, salt, cumin, and oregano and mix until clumpy.
THICKEN. Pour in chicken broth, whisking the entire time, until there are no more lumps. Heat for about 15 minutes or until the sauce is thickened.
Pro Tip: The sauce is thick enough when it coats the back of a wooden spoon well. In the pictures below, on the left, the sauce looks watery and doesn’t stick to the spoon. The picture on the right shows that the sauce is thick and sticks to the back of the wooden spoon showing that it’s ready.
I stand by this sauce as is. It’s easy to make and has a great flavor.
However, experimenting in the kitchen is part of my DNA. If that’s you too, here are a few suggestions you might try to adjust the taste and texture of this sauce.
- Make it creamy. Whisk in ½ cup of heavy cream. This is especially nice when you want to use the sauce as dressing for Nachos, Tacos, or a dip for Quesadillas.
- Spice it up, or not. Easily adjust how spicy you make this sauce. For a more mild sauce, decrease the chili powder. For a spicier sauce, increase the amount used or use a spicier brand of chili powder such as ancho chili powder or chipotle chili powder.
- Tomatoes. To add a blend of tomato into the sauce, simply stir in 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste or tomato sauce. Note that this will thicken the sauce as well.
- Thicken. To thicken without changing the taste, use a cornstarch slurry. In a separate bowl combine 1 teaspoon cold water and 1 teaspoon cornstarch. Once smooth add it to the pot of sauce. Simmer and stir for a few minutes to thicken. Repeat if necessary.
- Thinner. If the sauce is too thick add a little more chicken broth to thin it out to the desired consistency.
- Substitutions. The chicken broth can be substituted with vegetable broth. Use canola oil or olive oil instead of vegetable oil.
make ahead of time
We always do! In fact, I like to quadruple the batch of seasonings, or even the sauce, to use for later. For example, I will often combine the following ingredients and keep them in a jar in the cabinet:
- ¾ cup Gebhardt chili powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
Then, when I’m making Beef, Cheese, or Chicken Enchiladas, I’ll spoon out 3 heaping tablespoons of the mixture which is equivalent to about one batch of red enchilada sauce. Makes for easy cooking.
I love to quadruple this red enchilada sauce recipe and store it for later.
FREEZE. Divide the sauce into 3-4 airtight freezer-safe containers, label, and freeze for up to 2 months.
When I’m ready to make enchiladas I typically take out the sauce the day before and let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator. I then heat it up on the stove until it is smooth.
STORE. To store the sauce in the fridge, keep it in a jar for up to 4 days.
Red enchilada Sauce uses
We love to use this sauce in a few of our favorite recipes, including:
We sure love this homemade enchilada sauce and hope you like it too! It’s definitely become a favorite and one we use for all of our cheese enchiladas.
There are many similarities, but the largest difference is that enchilada sauce relies on dried chilies or chile powder for its spicy flavor and taco sauce relies on cayenne pepper and smoked paprika.
Red enchilada sauce uses dried ground red chilies or chili powder as the main ingredient. Green Enchilada sauce uses green chilies, tomatillos, and jalapenos as the base flavor. Both are delicious, and we prefer them homemade.
The acidity in the sauce can cause a bitter flavor. To counteract bitterness add a bit of agave syrup or brown sugar.
For more Mexican salsas and sauces, try:
Enchilada Sauce Recipe
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons chili powder (we prefer Gebhardt’s)
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 2 cups chicken broth
- Add oil to a pot and heat on medium heat. Pour in flour and create a roux by whisking them together for 1-2 minutes.
- Add chili powder, garlic powder, salt, cumin, and oregano and mix until clumpy.
- Pour in chicken broth, whisking the entire time until there are no more clumps. Heat for about 15 minutes or until the sauce is thickened.
- TIP: The sauce is thick enough when it coats the back of a wooden spoon well. In the picture above, on the left, the sauce looks watery and doesn't stick to the spoon. The picture on the right shows that the sauce is thick and sticks to the back of the wooden spoon showing that it's ready.
Love this recipe!!! This is perfect sauce!
Thank you! I’m so glad you loved the sauce. It’s our favorite!
Didn’t include all ingredients and measurements (broth or flour)
Hi Culinary Student! If you scroll to the bottom of the post, or you can click on “jump to recipe” up at the top, it will take you right to the recipe card which includes ingredients, measurements and instructions for the sauce.
Addicting!!! I make enchiladas just so I can eat this sauce!!!
Yummy!! I’m so glad you love it. I could practically drink the stuff. 😉
So easy just like how my mom made it!
I didn’t write because I haven’t use the recipe yet. I like everything else that you have so I figured this would be a hit as well. I just wondered why you do not have to use tomato paste or tomato sauce because most of the recipes that I used before call for one of those. Thanks
This is one of our favorites. We never buy enchilada sauce we only make it now.
Love this recipe! First time I tried it and I will never go back to the can version! So yummy and easy ❤
Great flavor. I didn’t like the canned enchilada sauce. It was very thin and tasted like the can. This sauce has a great flavor and was thicker.
I haven’t tried this yet because of the sodium content being quite high. Is this an error? I love the recipes of yours that I have tried previously!
You can definitely adjust the amount of salt in the recipe to lower the sodium content. You’ll have to let us know what you do and how you like it! 🙂
Absolutely 𝗔𝗠𝗔𝗭𝗜𝗡𝗚 and delicious!
Quick and easy to make. 𝑻𝒉𝒂𝒏𝒌 𝒚𝒐𝒖 for all the tips through your recipe, you are very much appreciated.
𝗖𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗻𝘂𝗲𝗱 𝗕𝗹𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗴𝘀 to you & yours.
Used just 2.5 tap of chili powder and it was perfect for my parents. We usually make a big batch from scratch (chilis). Love making enchiladas and with my parents moving in, wasn’t sure what I should do. This was easy and good. Mom even said she wanted the recipe for the beef enchiladas I made today.
Made this last night for dinner and it will now be my go to recipe for red enchilada sauce. My 11 year old daughter loves it so much. Thank you for sharing! The key I learned was whisking it well to get that consistency I wanted. I did add a little more brother and a little tomato sauce and it was just perfect. I just shared this recipe with my sister who uses the canned sauce. Once you have all your kitchen staples stocked you can easily prepare delicious homemade sauces like this at any time.
Hi! I am new to your site…. Made the enchilada sauce earlier… it is perfect! I added some onion powder as well. Thanks for a keeper!
You’re welcome! I’m so glad that you loved the recipe! Thanks for giving it a try!
The sauce and the leftover roast beef enchilada recipe are unbelievable great. I have given this recipe out to 2 of my friends so far. My husband and I LOVE it. Thank you.
I’ve made mine almost the same but forgot main ingredient my grandma used for flavor…cumin!! Thank you!!
Fast easy and delicious with Hatch fine ground red Chile. Better than canned, I prefer homemade.
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